The thrush family Turdidae, sure can sing beautifully. For instance, the robin sings its song over and over. Yup. The robin is a thrush. My favorite is the wood thrush. The hermit thrush is very distinctive, but don't mix it up with the fox sparrow. Other close relatives are the robin, olive-back thrush, gray-cheeked thrush and veery. That's a pretty big family.
Let's start with the wood thrush, one of my favorite birds, because of its song. First, where does it hang out? Mostly in moist deciduous woods in low altitudes. Look for it in thick undergrowth along streams, lake edges and swamps. However, don't give up on any woodland area. This bold bird has even resided near homes that are shaded by tall trees.
Its favorite food is just about any insect, but completes its diet with fruit. That's pretty common among thrushes. If you're lucky, you'll observe it scratching dead leaves to find insects.
A Wood Thrush is pictured.
Photo by Gale VerHague
Its nest will be anywhere from 5 to 12 feet high in dense shrubs, in the crotch of a young tree, or between two horizontal lower limbs of a bigger tree. That nest is composed of stems and leaves held together by mud or hardened leaf mold. Four greenish-blue eggs without any markings will be laid. (Don't be fooled by the robin's eggs, which are lighter blue).
I can hardly wait to hear my first wood thrush of the season singing as I walk down my country road.
Now, on to the hermit thrush. How does its behavior compare with that of the wood thrush? Besides swamps, it enjoys dry hills with thick woodlands which are cool and rocky pastures that have been overgrown with brush. Like the wood thrush, it likes the coolness of the woods. Me too. It really loves conifers, but certainly won't poo-poo deciduous woodlands with just a few pine and hemlock trees. That's exactly like the woods on my road.
Maybe I have mistaken the hermit for the wood thrush. Usually, I let you look up in your field guides their appearance, but today I'm going to describe the main difference. Its throat is not clear like that of the wood thrush, and its speckled breast fades higher up than the first bird. Here's another identification problem. It looks very similar to the fox sparrow. Now, you're going to have to look that one up all by your iddy, biddy self.
How is its behavior different to that of the wood thrush? It prefers most of the same habitats, except that it also likes dry hillsides and uplands, rocky pastures with uncut brush, recently cut pastures, and burned forests.
Mostly it prefers conifers, but it wouldn't turn down a forest with deciduous (those which drop their leaves in the fall) woods, if they have at least a spattering of pine or hemlocks. Its food consists of insects and berries. I have lots of both of those. I should put out a sign advertising that feature of my property. The majority of insects it gleans are hidden among dead leaves. I have lots of those, too. That's one of the reasons I only mow paths. The other might be laziness, but I don't think so. In fact, in my opinion, it's harder to maintain natural environments than just mowing down the invasives.
I could write about other thrushes, but this is a good place to stop. I love this family and if you don't already, I hope you will soon. Good birding to you!